Saturday, May 17, 2014

Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Martin TX case brief summary

Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Martin TX. 1949
Facts: Respondent George F. Martin and his two minor daughters were injured by an unoccupied automobile belonging to the petitioners Love. Just prior to the accident, the unoccupied automobile had been left by Mrs. Love at a filling station owned by petitioner Humble for servicing. Thereafter, before any station employee had touched it, the automobile rolled by gravity off the premises into and obliquely across the abutting street, striking Mr. Martin and his children from behind as they were walking into the yard of their home, which was a short distance downhill from the station. 
Issue: Was the gas station in question operated by an independent contractor thus relieving Humble Oil Co. from liability due to a lack of a master-servant/principal-agent relationship?
Holding: Schneider was Humble’s agent because Humble implemented a strict system of financial control and supervision
Reasoning: Just b/c the K calls Schneider an independent contractor doesn’t mean that’s what he is. The instrument as a whole indicates a master/servant relationship, for example:
Argument for Control
-The more control you exert, the more you are subject to being vicariously liable. 
-Contract requires:
            -Make reports and perform other duties in connection with the operation of said station that may be required of him from time to time by company.”
            -Humble pays 75% of utilities
-Humble controlled location; terminable at will
-Humble controlled hours of operation. (emphasized by court)
-Contractual obligations
Argument for No Control
Contract requires:
            -”Expressly repudiates any authority of Humble over the employees.”
            -Requires station to pay all operating expenses. 
-Station employees did not consider Humble to be its employer
-Must look at the substance of the agreement between the alleged principal and agent. 
-Fundamental tension: freedom to contract v. rights of third parties/fairness of contracts

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